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Yog Sootra

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Yog Sootra of Patanjali

Name of a work by Patanjali on Yaugik philosophy.

Patanjali, often called the "father of Yog", codified his thoughts and the knowledge of Yog in "The Yoga Sootra of Patanjali" book. In this work, Patanjali compiled 195 Sootra or concise aphorisms that are essentially an ethical blueprint for living a moral life and incorporating the science of Yog into your life. In a world where we reduce nearly everything to quick tips and sound bites, Patanjali seems to fit right in with his brief 195 guidelines to enlightenment.

Patanjali is believed to be the incarnation of Anant serpent Bhagavaan. When he decided to teach Yog to world, he fell from sky and fell into the open palms - Anjalee (Pat mean fall and when two open palms are joined together side by side, it is called Anajalee), that is why he is known as Patanjali. (Read the Story About Patanjali)

The Yog Sootra is considered the fundamental text on the system of Yog, and yet you wont find the description of a single posture or Aasan in it. This is a guide for living the right life. Essentially, Patanjali says, you can't practice Aasan in Yog class, feel the stretch, and then go home to play with your kids, cook a meal, yell at your employees, and cheat on your taxes. There is more to Yog than that, "Yog  can help you cultivate body, mind, and spiritual awareness".

The heart of Patanjali's teachings is the eightfold path of Yog. It is also called the eight limbs of Patanjali, because they intertwine like the branches of a tree in the forest. These aren't commandments (although they sometimes sound like them), laws, or hard and fast rules. These are Patanjali's suggestions for living a better life through Yog. Here are the eight limbs of Patanjali. (Read others description of Yog)

 (1) Geetaa summarizes the methods of making the mind Saatwik. Its details are given in Yog Sootra and its ancient commentaries, especially by Vyaas Jee, Bhr

(2) First chapter of Sage Patanjali's Yog Sootra (Samaadhi Paad) is for Uttam Yogee who need merely the blessings of a competent Guru to attain Samaadhi ; such persons have undergone preliminary stages in previous lives. The 2nd Chapter (Kriyaa Paad) is for Madhyam Yogee who need to perform Abhyaas of Ashtaang Yog Maarg with Vairaagya for conditioning the mind for Samaadhi gradually. In Ashtaang Yog, Dhyaan is the 7th stage.

(3) An imaginary question. A person not perfect in previous six stages can never perform true Dhyaan, and will only waste time in delusion. Ashtaang Yog has two broad categories : Bahirang and Antarang. Bahirang Yog (Yam, Niyam, Aasan, Praanaayaam, Pratyaahaar) enables one for Antarang Yog (inner Yog). AntarangYog starts with Dhaaranaa, which is "Chitta Deshbandh", ie delimiting the realm of Chitta so that no extraneous thought enters mind. Accomplishment in Dhaaranaa enables one for entering into Dhyaan which is "Tail Dhaaraa Vat" unbroken flow of consciousness towards the selected Mantra or idea. Long practice in Dhyaan automatically results in Samaadhi, which is normal state of real Consciousness, all other states of Chitta other than Samaadhi are Vyaadhi (mental disease). Those who are incapable of Dhaaranaa cannot practice Dhyaan and will only waste their own time or cheat others. But there is one benefit of Dhyaan even by > the unworthy : meditation of any type, proper or improper, is better than chatting or marketing, it calms down mind to some extent. But without Ashtaang method, meditation alone cannot enable one to cross the borderline situation of mundane existence, unless one is gifted like Swaamee Vivekanand.

(1) Yam
Yam is social behavior, how you treat others and the world around you. (Empathy is the most important aspect) .These are moral principles. Sometimes they are called the don'ts or the "thou shalt nots'. There are five Yam :

(a) Ahinsaa (Nonviolence) - Do no harm to any creature in thought or deed. In his book "Autobiography of a Yogi", Paramahans Yoganand Jee asked Mahatma Gandhi the definition of Ahinsaa. Gandhi said, "The avoidance of harm to any living creature in thought or deed." Yoganand Jee again asked if one could kill a cobra to protect a child.... Gandhi maintained he would still hold to his vow of Ahinsaa, but added - "I must confess that I could not serenely carry on this conversation were I faced by a cobra."
(b) Satya (Truth and honesty) - Tell no lies. Cheating on your income taxes falls into this category.
(c) Asteya (Non-stealing) - Do not steal material objects (a car) or intangibles things such as the center of attention or your child's chance to learn responsibility or independence by doing something on his own.
(d) Brahmcharya (Non-lust) - Don't worry; this is not a call to celibacy. Many Yogee of old were married and had families of their own. The person who practices Brahmcharya avoids meaningless sexual encounters and, as the well-known teacher BKS Iyengar puts it, "sees Divinity in all."
(e) Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) - Free yourself from greed, hoarding, and collecting things. Do you really need more shoes, another car, or to hog the conversation every time you see your friends? Make your life as simple as possible.

(2) Niyam
Niyam is inner discipline and responsibility, how we treat ourselves. These are sometimes called observances, the do's, or the don'ts. There are five Niyam:
(a) Shauch (Purity). Purity is achieved through the practice of the five Yam, which help clear away the negative physical and mental states of being. Keep yourself, your clothing, and your surroundings clean.
Eat fresh and healthy food. The next time you joke about treating your body like a temple, think of this as a Niyam.
(b) Santosh (Contentment) - Cultivate contentment and tranquility by finding happiness with what you have and who you are. Seek happiness in the moment, take responsibility for where you are, and choose to grow from there.
(c) Tapas (Austerity) - Show discipline in body, speech, and mind. The purpose of developing self-discipline is not to become ascetic, but to control and direct the mind and body for higher spiritual aims or purposes.
(d) Swaadhyaaya (Study of the sacred text) - Study sacred texts, which are whatever books are relevant to you and inspire and teach you. Education changes a person's outlook on life. As Iyengar says, a person starts "to realize that all creation is meant for Bhakti (adoration) rather than for Bhog (enjoyment), that all creation is Divine, that there is Divinity within himself and that the energy which moves him is the same that moves the entire universe."
(e) Living with an awareness of the Divine (Eeshwar-pranidhaan ). Be devoted to God, Buddha, or whatever you consider Divine.

The above mentioned Yam and Niyam are necessary for spiritual upliftment.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 12/05/12